Lack of final Race to the Top plan jeopardizes funds
Districts, employees cannot sign on to plan without seeing it first
East Lansing, Mich., January 4, 2010 – The Michigan Department of Education is putting any chance of our state winning Race to the Top funds in jeopardy by rushing to force local school districts and their local unions to sign off on a blank contract—one that right now appears to grant control over many local education decisions to the state.
MDE is requiring local approval of the RTTT plan by Thursday, January 7, despite the fact that the plan itself is not even final. Since the application is not due until January 19, today the Michigan Education Association and AFT-Michigan are urging Gov. Jennifer Granholm and State School Board President Kathleen Straus to extend the local sign-off deadline until the parties can see a final plan and know what they are supporting. A similar request was made of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan last week and was denied.
In a letter to the governor and President Straus, the two organizations outlined serious concerns with both the direction of our state’s application as well as specific elements of the plan that go far beyond the authority of the MDE and the school reform legislation passed before the holidays.
“Without an extension that allows them to receive and review the final state plan, signing an incomplete memorandum of understanding (MOU) is just like signing a blank contract,” said MEA President Iris K. Salters. “It’s not unreasonable to ask that districts and their employees get to see what they’re agreeing to before they sign it, especially since there are so many legitimate concerns about the contents of the draft plan.”
The hallmark of the Race to the Top program is that is a collaborative effort—meant to bring all parties in the education process together in the best interest of students. The MDE’s actions risk losing millions of dollars for Michigan schools.
“It is frustrating and disappointing to see our state superintendent try to rush through this opportunity,” said AFT-Michigan President David Hecker. “We urge the governor and the State School Board to extend the deadline for districts and local unions to sign the application until a final application proposal has been completed. And we call on Superintendent Flanagan to make significant changes to the state plan to truly reflect what our Legislature intended.”
“We remain committed to supporting a strong application for Michigan to receive RTTT funds,” said Salters. “But a leap of faith of this nature is simply not in the best interest of schools, their employees and, especially, students.”
Doug Pratt, MEA Director of Communications, 517-896-4465
Updated: January 5, 2010 10:41 AM